Shavuot, Samaritan-Style


Five weeks after the Jewish world celebrated the Festival of Weeks, the Samaritans celebrated theirs.

On Sunday, Shavuot on the lunar calendar of the Samaritans — descendants of Jewish tribes exiled from the Holy Land nearly three millennia ago — several scores of members of the extant group made their annual pilgrimage to Mount Gerizim, their holy mountain near Nablus in the West Bank.

The Samaritans mark Shavuot, like Passover and Sukkot, as a seven-day holiday, beginning with Yom Kahala, the Day of Congregation. From early in the morning, they march to the places atop that mountain that, according to their tradition, played crucial parts in biblical history.

Samaritan leaders, right, hold up their Torah scroll during Shavuot ceremonies. Samaritan youth, above, watch the sun rise over Mount Gerizim.

The Samaritan community is composed of some 720 people, half at Mount Gerizim, the rest in Holon near Tel Aviv.